Chapter 1: Survival of the Fittest
The guest speaker looked at the class full of children. In his hand was a large leather book that looked ancient. Holding the book face-forward so the children could see the faded gold writing, He moved his finger gingerly across the words; The Journals of Jonathan Stone. Clearing his throat the man turned the book around, saying: "I want you all to hold your questions until I'm done. Understood?"
The children nodded in anticipation. The speaker's lesson assignment today was the origin of the Sanctuary where they lived, and how it came to be. Thinking to himself, "Thank God it's only the first chapter." The inside front cover read: This journal I write now is not for me, or the ones who are with me; rather it is for the ones who will follow. My hope is that in some small way, it can explain the trials that are happening now in the world we live in. I pray that someone will be around to read this. If not, at least we tried. God speed!
Carefully turning to the first page, the speaker started to read: Today, after returning from my morning run, my wife met me on the porch. "Have you heard the news this morning John?" she asked. Shaking my head I told her, "No." Her eyes were filling with tears as she handed me the newspaper. "ARMAGEDDON APPROACHES!!!" the headlines blared with their two-inch high words.
Going into the house, I sat down at the kitchen table while Angie made breakfast.
I began reading the article; not realizing it would be the first of thousands in the next few months. I will not bother writing the entire article, since I have many duties to get done today. Basically here's what it said: A meteor is heading towards earth. The scientist's of the modern world had predicted it would hit earth in two years, eleven months, and fourteen days.
Putting down the paper I called a friend of mine still at the Pentagon. "Frank, is this for real?" I asked. I have known Frank Summers for thirty-seven years, and had pulled his butt out of the fire more than a few times. "John, I'm sorry to say that it is, blast it all!" Frank's voice over the phone sounded ragged and worn.
"What's the situation room planning?" I asked, knowing that if the news had just found out than the President and his Chief Brass have known for a while.
"They're refitting some of the long range Screamers, to blow it to pieces in space." Frank replied. He didn't sound convinced of the plan. "What are the percentages Frank?" I inquired. "The brass, along with the eggheads, think its eighty-five percent give or take a few." Frank replied.
Frank and I had gone through the kind of blood baths that bind men together forever. Knowing this, he asked, "So, what's our plan John?" Thinking for a second I finally answered. "Get as many of the Blackhawk teams together as you can and call me in a week."
For the next week, on every television, news teams brought in their own meteorological experts to estimate the devastation from a meteor hitting the earth. The popular estimates were that if the meteor hit the oceans there would be tsunami waves towering over a thousand feet high and traveling at 2,500 mph. The waves would travel up to 1000 miles inland. If it hit land there would be a dust cloud over the entire planet for 2 years, resulting in another ice age for at least a year.
The ozone layer would be depleted, letting in enormous amounts of radiation from the sun. It would take seventy years for the ozone layer to repair itself. The polar icecaps would melt creating vast flooding and new inland seas.
Most of the worldwide population would die from either the extreme heat or by the intense radiation that developed after the ozone layer was gone. Mutant strains in both man and animals would begin to show up all across the world. But, some of life would survive, and it would be every man for himself.
In a cabin just outside of the town of Edwards, Colorado, fifty men were in the small living room, listening to Retired Captain John Stone lay out the situation. "You men know what's coming. I've decided to prepare for the worst." The men nodded knowing the government would only try to save the heads of state and other such people, leaving the rest of mankind to fend for themselves.
"Last year I was elk hunting not far from here in Eagle Nest wilderness." I told them. Looking at Frank beside me, I saw the look of astonishment flood across his face. "The caves!" he exclaimed. I nodded. The other men were perplexed at what Frank was so excited about. "Captain sir?" Bob Haskell interjected. "What's this about a cave?"
Thinking about the trip last year I explained how I was tracking a wounded elk I had shot. Frank and I followed it for two days over the mountains. It finally just up, and disappeared without a trace. We were up against a mountain about one hundred feet on a flat mesa outcrop. Frank spotted the pine trees growing against the side of the mesa and followed the blood trail. It turned out that the trees and brush were covering a massive cave opening, and the blood trail went inside.
We found the elk dead and explored a little bit. "This place is great!" Frank had said. And he was right. Since we were so far from our home camp we spent the night in the cave, and left the following morning with the carcass.
I kept the men at the cabin for three days, working out the details and assigning them each different missions. The last order I gave them was; "You're not to tell anyone, and I mean anyone including your families." A few didn't understand so Frank explained. "A lot of you have children right?" The men nodded. "Can you imagine what will happen if any of this leaks out?"
Understanding showed on their faces. Standing beside Frank I assured them. "In one month everyone meets in Vail. All they need to know is that Vail is a ski resort area that the old team is having a reunion at for two weeks."
I worked as a freelance engineer for the Navy since I retired, designing a new engine that is based on using alcohol instead of standard fuel. Even though my new engine is ninety percent cleaner, with no significant loss of power, the four Blackhawk helicopters installed with the new design were sitting in a hanger.
Three days after the meeting in the cabin, while getting ready for bed Angie suggested, "John, if the military will not buy your design why not sell it to someone else, like a automotive company?" I almost kicked myself for being so stupid, here we were trying to scrape together every nickel and dime for supplies and our salvation was sitting on top of my desk!
I made a call to General Thompson the next day letting him know my plans to sell my design. "What!" He screeched through the headset. "Now see here John, we have the first bid on the design and you know it." Angie must have been looking at the contract in my office because she bushwhacked the general disclosing.
"General, I looking at the contract in my hands, paragraph two section one. It states you do have first rights on bidding for the design." The General didn't know who he was dealing with. When Angie is fired up, lookout for the storm and kiss your ass goodbye!
Stretching the phone cord in the kitchen to its limits I could see Angie at my desk smiling. "Oh general, you didn't let me finish." A grumble came from the other end of the phone. "Go ahead." Angie responded. "It states that upon receiving notice of sale, the Navy has one week to bid. The designer that's John; can refuse your bid or place it on the open market." Angie winked at me across the rooms. "So general either put up a bid, or shut the hell up!" She said is a sweet but deadly voice. A very shocked general realized he was facing a superior negotiator, and gave in. "Yes ma'am let me see what I can do" and hung up.
A week later General Thompson called me saying. "Your wife is tough, we could use her up here. The Pentagon has agreed to your proposal." My heart was racing like a jackhammer. "All of it?" I demanded, trying to sound calm. Inside I was fighting the urge to yell.
A sigh came over the line. "Yes all of it; two hundred and fifty million dollars, plus the four Blackhawks and spare engines and the alcohol production platform". Then he added, "I still don't know why you want that crap. It's not worth anything since it only works with that damn corn you had designed for it."
"Thanks again General." I said, knowing I could now at least have a chance to save my loved ones and our future.
I stood on the mesa outside the cave entrance looking at the first Blackhawk chopper coming out of the sun in the distance. "They're here!" I yelled to Frank. Checking the rough helicopter pad we had been working on for the last three days, thinking, "It will have to do for now." With satisfaction I looked at Frank and Steve coming out of the cave.
They were as filthy as I was, covered almost head to toe in dirt and dried sweat. The clearing of the pad was tough work for three men; cutting down thirty and sometimes forty-foot pine trees, and removing the stumps was tough on even a young man. "I'm not a youngster anymore and neither is Frank." I thought to myself.
Jackson landed the chopper with expertise developed after twenty years of flying navy rescue. Jackson once told me, "John, I've landed on so many moving carriers that regular ground feels kind of strange." He was without a doubt the best chopper pilot I've ever known.
I watched as Frank's wife, Sue climbed out followed by my sweet Angie. "John!" She cried running up to me. I grabbed her around the waist and picked her up, Angie didn't seem to mind that I hadn't taken a bath in two days or that I was covered in grime. She scrutinized me saying, "You look terrible! How's your heart?" Her perception of my physical health had always been extraordinary. "I'm a little worn down, I think Frank and I bit off more than we should have." I answered kissing her on the cheek. With a twinkle in her eye Angie quipped. "Well now that I'm here at least you'll have real food and a warm bed at night." She was right.
Once everyone had arrived and were inside the main cave, I explained our plans. The families of the men showed every emotion from bewilderment to enthusiasm at what lay ahead. Frank told them the reason for the ruse in getting all of them there and then explained why this particular cave.
He was used to dealing with the military so he asked for silence until he was done giving his report on our new home. Everyone acknowledged the reasoning so Frank proceeded to inform the group about the cave and our plans.
The cave was almost at the top of Mt. Powell in the middle of Eagle Nest Wilderness in Colorado. The mountain rose over fourteen thousand feet above sea level. It was miles from any sea, which made it perfect to avoid any flooding. The cave ceiling was two hundred feet high with an opening at least five hundred feet in diameter at the top allowing plenty of light and sunshine inside.
The main cave was at least fifty acres inside. With large tunnels branching out to four smaller caves, these caves were each five to ten acres inside as well.
The smallest cave was deep into the mountain and stayed well below freezing in one corner. After doing some exploring we found a small entrance going even deeper down. A man could hardly fit so I called for Angie and sent her in tied off to a repelling rope.
I gave her a combat radio and prayed she would be all right. Fifteen minutes later a shout came over the radio. "John! You're not going to believe this! Pull me up now it's too slippery for me to climb out by myself."
Worried, I grabbed the rope as more men helped and within minutes Angie came staggering out with a chunk of ice in her dirty but cute little hands. "I found us the freezer to beat anything you can buy at the Sam's club!" she laughed.
It took us three days to first widen and then cut steps down into the tunnel but it was worth it. We were actually below the surface of the mountain and standing on a glacier!
The "freezer" cave was a little over 2 acres in size, and could handle all the food we could ever put in it. Looking at my wife as we stood in awe I said, "Well, you're in charge of stocking this place babe. Tell Frank what you need as far as storage shelves and containers go. But it's up to you to lay it all out and fill it."
Angie had a smile as she thought what she needed to get and ideas were running through her head at a million miles an hour! She realized her husband had just put the entire group's survival into her hands and damned if she was going to mess up!
I say with great pride, my wife is one smart cookie. Knowing she could not just order all the supplies and food items to fill the massive freezer she went to over 50 different companies and told them she was starting a new grocery store and needed everything they had.
Since martial law had been declared by then, an individual could only buy what could be used for one week. This was to keep hoarders from getting massive amounts of food that would perish from not having a way to store it. But, if you had a grocery store, then you could order as much as you wanted in supplies and food items.
In three weeks Angie had the freezer stocked with enough good to last our group for six years along with complete meat processing shop and smoking facility. So food is not a problem now.
The upper cave would serve as the group kitchen, dining area, and meeting hall. The other three caves would be used for a weapons vault, a technical room, and the family quarters.
The largest of the three had already been selected as the family quarters. The weapons vault needed access from the ceiling to allow the choppers a way to land inside the cave.
That left the last cave for the Tech. Room where all the communications would be placed, along with an extensive library.
At Sue's request, we realized that we needed to add a school into the Tech room. "Our children will eventually have to be on their own; they need to know everything we know and more." she said. Since she was a high-school teacher, she was elected right then and there to run it. "That will teach her to speak up." said Frank, smiling. Frank paused, his voice a little dry. A very proud but astonished Sue handed him a canteen of water to wet his throat.
I smiled thanking God that I didn't have to speak right now. My body was a tough fighting machine when I was younger. Now I needed to rely on intellect. As my second in command, I decided to let Frank explain the plan so the group would know that his word was the same as mine.
Frank told the group how we had discovered an underground river, quite by accident, when Steve had thrown his pick against the wall at lunch yesterday. I looked over at Steve watching Frank with apprehension on his face. Steve was hoping Frank wasn't going to tell the whole story and embarrass him. Frank told the group that Steve had most assuredly saved us all some enormous labor, since our original plan called for going to the lower valley to dig a well.
I chuckled and watched relief wash the frown off of Steve's face. Actually Steve had tripped over a rock and skinned his shin with the pick, out of anger he threw the pick against the wall, trying to break the handle. Instead the narrow two-foot point sunk into the soft wall and water came leaking out. Steve made us promise not to tell the others and I've kept that promise until now.
A week later everyone had settled into the daily routine of our new home. I had some of the men working to clear a large portion of the ground where the water came from. When they finished, the opening was six feet wide and fifty feet long, revealing an underground river flowing up from the depths of the earth.
Frank came over as the last of the loose rock was being removed. "John, I have concerns about the origins of this water. We should take a sample and get it tested." Frank's face suggested that he would pester me until we got the results. Actually I agreed with him. We needed to be sure since our lives would depend upon it.
While Frank flew to Bolder to get the water tested, I busied myself getting the river sealed. I watched the men installing the stainless steel conduit. It's massive doors provided safety while allowing easy access to the river. Frank came back with the report from the lab, confirming the samples were clear of any contamination.
Knowing that regular fuel would not be in abundance after the meteor hit, we elected to use our newly discovered river as our power source. We installed massive water powered generators that produce enough electricity to run a small town, which was fine since we were in fact building a small town in this huge cave system.
Working day and night for six months, our group slowly converted our new home into a community inside the mountain. The women have dubbed it the Sanctuary, and it seems to fit.
The men I gathered were from different branches of the armed services, and had no trouble acquiring all types of weapons. From the basic M-16 and hundreds of different military rifles and shotguns, to the infamous M-60 machine guns and even some heavy artillery. They procured the weapons from either arms dealers or military auctions.
We sought out equipment to make our own ammunition. Knowing our weapons, even with superb maintenance could not last forever; we stocked the weapons vault with lathes, a foundry, and other gun repair equipment. We also brought in tons of hardened steel stock.
We bought electronic equipment and built a massive library on everything from the art of war through books on philosophy and ending with books and videotapes for the maintenance of the four converted Blackhawk helicopters.
The library and school were completed, and the computers were up and running. Sue had sixty very energetic kids from grade one to twelve to get organized and she drafted some of the other women to help.
We drilled and blasted a hole in the ceiling of the weapons vault large enough for the choppers to be able to land and take off. Once the hole was large enough, I had two massive doors installed, each one seventy feet by fifty feet. The doors were special ordered and cost over a quarter million dollars for the pair.
After installing the weapons vault doors, Frank suggested that instead of sealing the dome with concrete and loosing the natural light that we should try a different material instead. "Like what?" I asked. Frank held up a fragment of plastic. "This is a new polymer-plastic being designed for use in bulletproof windows." I understood that it was strong. "But what about the radiation later?"
Frank smiled. "The manufacturer confirmed that he can add in ultra-violet protection to any degree we want."
Two weeks later a six-inch thick polymer-plastic dome enclosed the opening above the main cave. The massive steel beams rose out of the sides of the cave, curving up through the opening at the top twenty-five feet in height.
The dome itself was installed in four sections, each one weighing over seventeen tons. It would let sunlight through but block 80 percent of the ultraviolet light and 100 percent of all harmful radiation. All that was left was the main cave entrance.
The opening was sixty feet high and eighty feet wide, a single door had originally been planned, but it would be too massive to operate if the door ever had to be opened manually. Going back to the drawing board, I decided to use two huge, five-inch thick steel sliding doors instead. They could be vacuumed sealed into the frames when shut to keep out particles of any kind. I then added an eight-foot by 10-foot tall door into the right side main door for daily use.
After three months of intensive work the Sanctuary was completely sealed. Using the underground river for our power supply, Steve and the men installed air-filtering systems large enough to recycle the air when we needed to be locked inside the mountain. Homes were built, along with a medical facility and other types of communal buildings.
The center of the main cave was cultivated for growing vegetables, herbs, fruits and medicinal plants. We installed over two thousand ultra-violet plant lights to insure growth even when the seasons changed.
With all the lighting done we had almost created our own sun source and no longer had to rely on the real sun outside. The main cave would supply us with food year round along with livestock we brought in; everything from chickens to pigs and cattle. We named it the Life Center for it would indeed bring life in the coming years.
The day has finally come. The meteor is approaching the earth. The others have already gathered in the family room but I needed to write this before I go. If the catastrophic events that look inevitable do not become reality, if God's hand brushes the meteor off its deadly course and the earth is saved I will feel nothing but pride. The work we have done here, the lessons we have learned have made friends into brothers and all of us into a family. We have proven that the human spirit is the strongest of God's creations, for instilled into each of us is the will to survive.
The massive entrance doors were closed. The entire group was in the family cave watching the live broadcast as the world's only hope went into action. Looking at the large screen television, our group watched as the Trident missiles were launched into space towards the oncoming meteor.
Fifteen missiles loaded with nuclear payloads hit the meteor. The broadcast went off, as the intense radiation from the nukes blocked out all satellite signals around the world. "Is our TV broken?" asked a little boy name Tommy. Smiling with assurance that I really didn't have, I spoke to the group, "Most of you know this but for the ones who don't; the radiation will subside in a few minutes. The broadcast will continue once the radiation has cleared enough for the signals to come through again."
Thirty seconds later the president came back on with sadness on his face. "My fellow Americans, the meteor was hit but our missiles have failed." Fighting the emotional battle inside his heart, the President regained his composure continuing. "Our scientists had calculated the mass of the meteor would be at least forty percent ice. They were wrong. We have a laser that measures mass within a gram. Unfortunately because of its limits the laser can only be employed at a target within fifty miles of the earth."
Glancing down at a paper in his trembling hands, he looked into the eyes of the world knowing that he, the President, was indeed the messenger of death. "Judging by the readings right before the missiles struck, we have learned the meteor is less than four percent ice. That leaves over ninety five percent of the meteor iron and other metals. Instead of being obliterated into dust as our scientists had calculated, the missiles have shattered one large meteor into dozens of smaller ones."
The entire room was completely silent, the president added quietly. "Our world is about to change forever, most of us will not survive what is to come." Almost whispering now the most powerful man in the known world offered. "For the ones who do survive, God be with you."
Bowing his head he continued, "Father I pray that you will be merciful to us and let some of your children survive. For those that do, I ask only this." Raising his eyes the President said, "Remember us." The screen went black for the last time as a meteor hit Washington.
One hundred years later someone still remembered, in fact they taught it to their children in history class.